For Cascade, Nicolas Party’s third exhibition with the gallery, the artist presents a group of new works, including pastels, cabinets and oil-on-copper paintings. Large tripartite pastels and smaller cabinet paintings point to a new trajectory, both formal and technical, that has opened up in his practice. Mastering the all but forgotten art of painting on copper, Party’s paintings are as luminous as their historical counterparts. A group of single arched pastels and oil-on-copper paintings echo the shape of the cabinet’s central panels.
Nicolas Party’s triptychs belong to a genre with a rich historical legacy. From The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1410) to Francis Bacon’s triple portraits, artists have long worked, whether by convention or choice, with this distinctive organizational structure. Immersing himself in the art of the past – as both a wellspring of inspiration and a model for looking at the world today – Party created two large pastel triptychs in which the natural world takes centre stage: trees dominate one, clouds the other. As iconographic motifs, the images evoke a wealth of associations, be they visual or literary, secular or spiritual. Party’s interest in these subjects is related to his fascination with classical art historical genres (the landscape, the still life and the portrait, for example) and their continuous renewal across time, space and cultures. Yet Party is deliberately non-specific in terms of his references: he does not strive for verisimilitude in his art, nor does he slavishly iterate on the works of past masters. What he creates, instead, are open-ended tropes that encourage us to consider the network of connections and meanings behind these archetypes. His triptych of trees submerged in a swamp might prompt one to think of the biblical flood or Monet’s paintings of the inundation at Giverny in 1896. Or perhaps J.G. Ballard’s book The Drowned World (1962), in which climate breakdown reduces Europe to a network of lagoons. Since many other allusions and references are also possible, the viewer is encouraged to journey into subjective interpretation.